United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
MICHAEL A. ALEXANDER, Plaintiff,
DR. JAMES RICHTER, et al. Defendants.
OPINION & ORDER
WILLIAM M. CONLEY DISTRICT JUDGE
se plaintiff Michael Alexander has been granted leave to
proceed against two defendants, Dr. James Richter and
Meredith Mashak, under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, on his Eighth
Amendment claim for the delays he experienced in receiving
eye care at the Columbia Correctional Institution
(“CCI”). Now before the court are defendants'
motions for summary judgment (dkts. #38, #48), as well as
several motions filed by Alexander. For the reasons that
follow, defendants' motions will be granted and
plaintiff's motions will be denied.
is currently incarcerated at CCI in Portage, Wisconsin. Dr.
James Richter, is a licensed optometrist and corporate
officer for Richter Professional Services, S.C., while
Meredith Mashak, is the supervisor of CCI's Health
Services Unit (“HSU”).
the relevant time period, Dr. Richter was the manager of
CCI's optical department, and in this role, he hired all
optometrists and arranges their schedules at CCI. However, he
has no duties that entail his being regularly on-site at CCI,
nor does he control how frequently another eye doctor visits
CCI. According to both Richter and Mashak, who is on-site at
CCI, the DOC Bureau of health Services Medical Director
controls the frequency of visits, and CCI HSU staff are
responsible for scheduling eye appointments and coordinates
the frequency of optometrist visits at CCI per month.
Dr. Richter does visit CCI to see inmates very infrequently
-- about one or two times a year -- although that only
happens when CCI requests an optometrist and no one else is
available because of scheduling conflicts. Moreover, CCI only
contacts Richter directly when its staff has already been
unsuccessful finding coverage through other Richter
Professional Services optometrists. When any optometrist from
Richter Professional Services visits CCI, he or she receives
a list of inmates to be seen that day, but usually does not
know what inmates are on the list before arriving.
inmates request eye appointments by submitting a Health
Service Request (“HSR”) with CCI's HSU, which
determines the level of urgency related to the request and
refers it for scheduling. In 2015, the two nurses that
handled scheduling at CCI were Rachel Pafford and Ms. Felton.
As the HSU supervisor, Mashak was not involved in reviewing
those requests or scheduling appointments. Indeed, the only
time that she reviewed this optical schedule was when she was
contacted about it.
optometrists are not generally on site in CCI's HSU,
inmates are placed on a waiting list, to be seen when an
optometrist is present. Mashak did not know exactly how often
optometrists came to CCI, but she testified that two doctors
came at least twice a month. From January through April 2015,
optometric services were available at CCI on thirteen
different days: three times in January, February and March,
and four times in April. The amount of time an inmate must
actually wait for his eye appointment at CCI depends on the
doctors' work schedules, the length of each appointment
and the seriousness of the inmate's condition.
Alexander's Eye Appointments
January 8, 2015, Alexander submitted a written request with
HSU for an evaluation by an eye doctor. At that time, he
wrote that his two-year check-up was due and he needed a
stronger prescription. Nurse Pafford responded that an
appointment was scheduled. However, after hearing nothing
more, Alexander submitted another request on February 23,
2015, to see an eye doctor, stating: “I requested over
a month ago to be seen by the eye doctor, this is my two year
appointment could you have the eye doctor call me?”
(Dkt. #2-1, at 13.) On February 26, 2015, Nurse Felton
responded: “you are on the list to see optical
currently a 5 month wait.” (Id.) Alexander
then submitted another request on March 5, 2015, this time
stating, “when I read[, ] I get headaches very bad
ones[. M]y eyes do not focus as fast as they use[d] to and
sometimes I see white spots. I need to see an eye
doctor.” (Dkt. #2-1, at 14.) The next day, Pafford
again replied: “appointment scheduled.”
Apparently hearing nothing for yet another month, Alexander
submitted a request slip on April 5, 2015. in which he
requested an eye doctor, and he explained that: his headaches
were getting worse; his eyes water when he tries to focus
them; and he sees spots.
Pafford responded to this request on April 7, 2015, stating
simply that he had an appointment “soon.” On
April 23, 2015, Dr. Ruder from Richter Professional Services,
examined Alexander. Dr. Ruder noted that Alexander's
specific eye complaint was an increase in migraines after
reading, and prescribed Alexander glasses for reading only,
specifically .50/-.50/50 for his right eye, and .75/SPH
for his left eye. Dr. Ruder also determined that
Alexander's vision at that point was actually better than
any previous prescription. (Richter decl. Ex. D. (dkt. 41-4)
at 12-14.) According to Dr. Ruder's notes,
Alexander's change in prescription was a response to his
inconsistent use of the glasses against the previous advice
1, 2015, Alexander submitted another information request
form. This time, he complained about headaches and eye pain
because he had to wait for his eye appointment. On May 11,
2015, the HSU supervisor, defendant Mashak, responded that
CCI has two, part-time optical doctors who come to CCI at
least two days a month, sometimes three. (Dkt. #2-1, at 15.)
Alexander received new glasses on May 4, 2015.
Summary Judgment Motion
claims that the delay he experienced before his April
appointment resulted in headaches that became migraines. On
that basis, as well as the allegation that the delay resulted
in plaintiff injuring his eyes, the court permitted him to
proceed on claims that Dr. Richter and Mashak violated his
Eighth Amendment rights in failing to ensure that an eye
doctor evaluated him in a timely fashion.
prison official may violate the Eighth Amendment if the
official is “deliberately indifferent” to a
“serious medical need.” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976). “Serious
medical needs” include (1) conditions that are
life-threatening or that carry risk of permanent serious
impairment if left untreated, (2) withholding of medical care
that results in needless pain and suffering, or (3)
conditions that have been “diagnosed by a physician as
mandating treatment.” Gutierrez v. Peters, 111
F.3d 1364, 1371 (7th Cir. 1997). “Deliberate
indifference” means that the officials are aware that
the prisoner needs medical treatment, but are disregarding
the risk by consciously failing to take reasonable measures.
Forbes v. Edgar, 112 F.3d 262, 266 (7th Cir. 1997).
Allegations of delayed care, even a delay of just a few days,
may violate the Eighth Amendment if the delay caused the
inmate's condition to worsen or unnecessarily prolonged
his pain. McGowan v. Hulick, 612 F.3d 636, 640 (7th
Cir. 2010) (“[T]he length of delay that is tolerable
depends on the seriousness of the condition and the ease of
providing treatment.”) (citations omitted); Smith
v. Knox County Jail, 666 F.3d 1037, 1039-40 (7th Cir.
2012); Gonzalez v. Feinerman, 663 F.3d 311, 314 (7th
this standard, plaintiff's ...